A #SHRM16 Interview with SHRM VP of Government Affairs Mike Aitken

On Monday morning after the opening keynote by Amy Cuddy, SHRM is offering up a plethora of sessions (the 10:45 a.m. slot).  You will find me in room 207 and I will be attending T Minus 90 days and Counting to the General Election.

This session is being presented by Mike Aitken.  Mike is the Vice President of Government Affairs for SHRM.  This means he oversees all of the legislative activities and coordinates everything that SHRM does in this area from lobbying, to policy development, the SHRM A-Team, or communication with the membership.  I have attended more than a half dozen of his sessions, the Washington update sessions, and he has done this for more than a dozen years.  This now is an annual event at the National Conference.  To some degree, he has his own cult following now who routinely attend this session.

I had the opportunity to chat with Mike about this session. One of things I wanted to know what if he could profile the average attendee at his sessions, as he has done so many of these. Mike said he sees his audience members as a little more sage HR professional.  Mike said the people that attend his sessions understand how what is happening in Washington D.C. can directly affect what is happening back at their place of business.  He continued saying that having this insight helps them plan and prepare for upcoming changes that will affect the workplace.  In doing so, these HR pros keep their organization ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing and understanding how new legislation will impact business. An example of this would be those folks who were knowledgeable about and prepared to deal with the Affordable Care Act, because they had been learning about the matter as it unfolded, compared the those who had to react to the ACA in crisis mode.

When it comes to understanding what is going on in DC, I asked Mike, what would be the one takeaway for those people who attended.  He said they are going to understand what they have to be ready for in the next six to twelve months in terms or new regulations or laws.

Having attended Mike’s sessions, I would agree that this is what Mike does deliver.  Often times us folks in the HR trenches do not want to hear what he has to say, but we shouldn’t kill the messenger.  I choose to tweet sarcastically about the matters he expounds upon (and you can tweet Mike at @SHRMVPAitken). 

Although when it comes to sarcasms, cynicism and skepticism, Mr. Aitken usually outdoes me with his witty and pithy comments about all of our elected officials.  Mike says he likes to mix it up about our elected officials. In fact, he thinks he has done it up right to the point as even the people closest to him do not know or understand his personal politics – i.e. they don’t know who he is going to vote for in an election.  Mike says he always wants to be viewed as being fair and balanced.

In doing so, Mike says SHRM has positioned the organization to be the go to resources for elected representatives and their staffs.  One thing Mike says they do is track “reach outs”.  A reach out is when SHRM is contacted by elected officials, or their staff, to get the SHRM position or understanding of an issue.   Mike says this is so important, so many of the major issues that Congress deals with are workplace issues. Things like jobs, paid leave, health care, workplace safety, economic growth are just a few of those examples.

So now you know a little bit more about Mike Aitken and this upcoming session.  I would encourage you to attend and hear from Mike what is driving all of these matters in Washington.  With the insight this session will provide, you will be better informed to help guide your organization up to and through the next election cycle.  Hope to see you there!



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